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The News Between Four Walls: Student Journalists Cover the Home Front

Courtesy of Justin Catanoso

When in-person classes were cancelled for the semester at Wake Forest University, Professor Justin Catanoso knew he would have to break some of his own rules. 

Catanoso teaches an introductory journalism class, where he asked students throughout the semester to cover campus events as if they were writing for the student newspaper. They were not allowed to interview their friends, they had to use quotes and they had to step outside of their comfort zones to find the scoop. But with all his students now off-campus, Catanoso asked them to cover the pandemic as they saw it from their homes.

Catanoso joins host Anita Rao to talk about the unconventional assignment along with two students from the class. Junior Marlee Rich shares her experience in writing about the upturned lives of her family members — her sister’s 18th birthday, her laid-off father and her immunocompromised mother’s visit to the grocery store. Sophomore Anthony D’Angelo talks about the process in writing his piece about his sister bringing home the coronavirus from college and moving their grandmother out of the house to protect her. Students Gabby Balthazar and Madison Borsellino also share what they wrote.

Credit Courtesy of Anthony D'Angelo
Courtesy of Anthony D'Angelo
Anthony D'Angelo (center) and his family.

Anthony D'Angelo's family decided to move his grandmother out of their house after his sister, Francesca, traveled back from New Orleans and tested positive for COVID-19. Then, his father also contracted the virus.

Anthony D'Angelo's story.

''In the house, everything was different in terms of how we interacted with each other. Francesca did not eat dinner with us, and we tried to stay away from her.''

Credit Courtesy of Marlee Rich
Courtesy of Marlee Rich
Marlee Rich (second from left) with her family.

Marlee Rich wrote a vignette of her family's life in quarantine on her sister's 18th birthday. Each family member experienced the day quite differently.

Marlee Rich's story.

''She jumps out of line and tells him she would be happy to give him one of her masks. The man smiles and begins repeatedly thanking her, as if she had given him a 100-dollar bill and not a glorified piece of cloth.''

Credit Courtesy of Gabby Balthazar
Courtesy of Gabby Balthazar
Gabby Balthazar and her father.

Gabby Balthazar's father was one of the first confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Carolina. She wrote about him having to contact trace and reach out to people he may have infected.

Gabby Balthazar's story.

''Making a list of all the people I had unknowingly endangered was possibly the worst feeling I had ever felt,'' said Joe Balthazar.


Credit Courtesy of Madison Borsellino
Courtesy of Madison Borsellino
Madison Borsellino (far left) and her family, including her late father.

Madison Borsellino wrote about the struggle to adjust to life isolated at home while in quarantine. Earlier in the semester, she spent time at home after her father passed away. 

Madison Borsellino's story

''Far too often, the constant reminders of my father's death are more haunting than the virus.''

Kaia Findlay is the lead producer of Embodied, WUNC's weekly podcast and radio show about sex, relationships and health. Kaia first joined the WUNC team in 2020 as a producer for The State of Things.
Josie Taris left her home in Fayetteville in 2014 to study journalism at Northwestern University. There, she took a class called Journalism of Empathy and found her passion in audio storytelling. She hopes every story she produces challenges the audience's preconceptions of the world. After spending the summer of 2018 working in communications for a Chicago nonprofit, she decided to come home to work for the station she grew up listening to. When she's not working, Josie is likely rooting for the Chicago Cubs or petting every dog she passes on the street.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.
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